Kirk Douglas Injured in Helicopter-Plane Collision
SANTA PAULA, Calif. (AP) _ Kirk Douglas and cartoon voice artist Noel Blanc were injured Wednesday when the helicopter they were in collided with a stunt plane. Two people aboard the plane were killed.
The collision occurred about 3:30 p.m. above a runway at a small, private airport popular with celebrity aviation buffs and stunt pilots.
The names of the dead were not immediately released.
Douglas, 74, who has a pacemaker, was in good enough shape to joke with doctors.
He was in stable condition after it was determined he suffered only cuts and bruises, said Rulon Barlow, president of Santa Paula Memorial Hospital. He later was transferred by helicopter to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he was listed in fair condition.
″He’ll be doing just fine,″ Barlow said.
Blanc, 52, the son of the late Mel Blanc, was listed in serious condition after surgery for a broken right leg, broken ribs and possible internal injuries.
A third man in the helicopter, Beverly Hills police officer Michael Carra, was treated for bruises and released, said Dr. Robert Dekkers, a physicial at the hospital.
″I think you’d almost have to call it a miracle that those three men survived,″ said Dekkers. He said Blanc was piloting the helicopter.
Paramedic Jason Johnson treated Douglas at the scene.
″He had a laceration to the right side of his head,″ Johnson said. ″He was pretty disoriented.″
All three men in the helicopter were conscious when rescuers arrived, Dekkers said. Douglas even joked with doctors at the hospital, he said.
″He’s really in darned good shape,″ Dekkers said. ″He’s a tough guy.″
As he was being loaded onto the helicopter ambulance, Douglas told paramedics: ″If you guys ever get sick I’ll take care of you,″ said James Sullivan, hospital materials manager.
The helicopter was leaving for Los Angeles when the collision occurred, said Dawn Sprock, Blanc’s assistant at Blanc Communications.
Blanc is a licensed helicopter pilot who often flew out of the airport, Ms. Sprock said. But Douglas’ son, Eric Douglas, said at a news conference late Wednesday that Carra piloted the helicopter.
The single-engine Pitts Special aerobatic plane and the Bell 206 Long- Ranger helicopter were both taking off from the airport when they collided, said Art Morriston, duty officer with the Federal Aviation Administration in Los Angeles.
Witnesses said the helicopter was crossing the runway when it was struck by the plane, about 40 feet above the ground.
The plane was heading west and the helicopter north, Morriston said.
City fire Capt. Kevin Fildes said the bottom part of the aircraft hit the rotor blades of the helicopter. The chopper plunged onto the runway.
″The Pitts burst into flames, fell and skidded down the runway about 100 yards past the helicopter,″ Fildes said. ″Debris is scattered all over the runway.″
The airport in Santa Paula, which is about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, has no control tower.
″They’re (pilots are) responsible for the see-and-avoid,″ Morriston said.
The helicopter lay overturned on the runway of the small airport not far from the twisted wreckage of the plane.
A three-time Oscar nominee, Douglas has appeared in 75 films, produced a dozen, directed one and appeared in nine plays. Born Issur Danielovitch, Douglas’ film credits include ″Lust for Life″ and ″Spartacus.″
Douglas also wrote two bestselling books in recent years, an autobiography, ″The Ragman’s Son,″ and a novel, ″Dance With the Devil.″
Mel Blanc supplied the voice for Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny and other Warner Bros. Looney Tunes-Merrie Melodies animated characters. Noel Blanc took over doing the voices after his father died in 1989 at age 81.